Football is the national sport in the UK and to this day is one of the most popular activities in the country. Thousands of professional clubs compete in various leagues throughout the country.
The country’s most popular league is the Premier League in England, which has one of the largest and most loyal fan bases around the world. The Premier League uses promotion and relegation as motivators for teams to remain as competitive as possible in the top tier league.
Thousands of clubs are located across the UK, but only 20 of the country’s finest play within the Premier League. The teams are promoted to elite status from the Championship, the oldest professional football league in the world. Each team play 38 games throughout a season, competing against each team two times throughout the year – once at home, once on the road.
At the end of each season, the three teams at the bottom of the Premier League are relegated down to the Championship. Those teams are replaced by the top two clubs in the Championship, and the winner of a playoff round robin among four teams in the league.
The Championship is historically known as the Football League Championship, and is the second highest football division in England, behind only the Premier League. Outside of the Premier League and other top tier leagues in other countries, the Championship is the most profitable non top tier football division in the world.
Whereas only 20 clubs compete in the Premier League, there are 24 clubs seeded in the Championship. At the end of each season, three teams from the Premier League are relegated to the Championship, and the top two teams from League One – plus the winner of the League One playoff round are promoted to the Championship.
The FA Cup is the oldest football competition in the world. Football teams across the country compete in the FA Cup, and provide smaller, grassroots clubs opportunities to upset some of the most popular teams in the world. The term “giant slayers” is synonymous with the FA Cup as lower tiered football teams frequently eliminate the highest rated clubs in a manner that plays on the old folk story of David vs. Goliath.
When the FA Cup concludes, the winner qualifies for the Europa League the following season. However, if the winner already qualified for Europa or even the Champions League, then the spot goes to the FA Cup runner up.
Football League Cup
Also known as the Capital One Cup, the Football League Cup is similar yet different to the FA Cup. The FA Cup is open to as many as 200 different teams, while the League Cup is restricted to teams currently seeded in the four divisions of the country’s Football League System – the Premier League, the Championship, League One, and League Two.
Another difference between the two is that the FA Cup allows teams to play only one game in the semifinal round. The League Cup plays a series of semifinal bouts with the aggregate winner of the two games advancing to the League Cup finals at Wembley.
The winner qualifies for a spot in the following season’s Europa League unless that team has already qualified for European competition. In that scenario, the highest rated team in the Premier League that has yet to qualify for the Champions League or Europa League wins the spot.
The UK’s greatest football clubs are invited to compete in the Champions League every year. The Champions League is a football competition that pits together the best teams across Europe in a continental contest for the title of best in all of Europe. The competition is organized by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
Four UK football teams are typically provided opportunities to compete in the Champions League. The three teams who finish at the top of the Premier League automatically qualify for the Champions League group stage, while the fourth placed Premier League team competes with other European clubs in a knockout qualifying round. If the playoffs are a success, the team joins the other three Premier League winning teams in the Champions League.
One of Europe’s most important football competitions, second only to the Champions League, is the Europa League. Teams that are unable to qualify for the Champions League but still performed outstanding in their respective domestic leagues earn a shot at the Europa title.
At the end of the Premier League season, the fifth placed team automatically qualifies for the Europa League in the following season. The sixth and seventh placed teams may also qualify for Europa depending on the outcomes of the FA Cup and League Cup competitions.
The winners of the two Cups qualify for Europa if they are not already qualified for the Champions League. The runners up are awarded the Europa slots, though the sixth and seventh placed Premier League teams qualify if the runners up are also already qualified for Europe.